The robust, spicy aroma reaches my nose from more than a block away, making my mouth water while I think of all the recipes that rely on roasted chiles. As deep and penetrating as their unmistakable scent, the flavor of roasted chiles is both irresistible and addictive to many of us. I buy a variety of chiles to roast at home on the grill or directly on the burner grate of the gas cooktop, and use them in soups and sauces. Just roast peppers over an open flame, turning until charred on all sides, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle. Remove most of the blackened skins with your fingers and chop for tonight’s dinner, or freeze in small containers in quantities suitable for a single use.
Buying chiles already roasted saves a step, but freezing the whole bag means you’ll have a huge green block, too big unless you plan to feed the neighborhood. Separate the chiles into smaller freezer bags or containers to pull from the freezer for a quick meal of enchiladas or black bean soup.
Typically, the smaller the chile, the hotter it is. When in doubt, ask the vendor and purchase according to your heat tolerance. But don’t overlook the deep flavor roasting imparts to bell peppers, from green to yellow to red. Roasted, these peppers can be cut into 1” dice and tossed with chopped tomatoes, arugula, romaine and radicchio, sliced red onion, chopped kalamata olives, and crumbled feta or goat cheese. Dress simply with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, drizzles of olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar, tossing to coat. The robust flavor of the peppers requires greens with stronger flavor instead of a mix of mild baby greens.
Add a roasted poblano pepper to a blender along with 4-5 husked and rough-chopped tomatillos, a handful of cilantro, 1/3 cup chopped onion, 2-3 garlic cloves, and the juice of a lime. Pulse 4-5 times, taste and add cumin, salt and pepper to taste, and pulse to the desired consistency. Serve with chips or as a sauce over grilled chicken or steak. A hotter salsa verde can be made with the addition of a seeded jalapeno or Serrano pepper.
Black Bean Chorizo Soup
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
½ lb. chorizo sausage
1 small onion, diced
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 roasted poblano chiles, diced
1 quart homemade chicken stock
salt and pepper
pinch dried basil and oregano
1 tsp. (or more to taste) dried cumin powder
1 tbsp. olive oil
Crumble and cook sausage in a saucepan, adding a little water to the pan. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, poblanos, and potatoes with a little salt and pepper and the dried herbs. Add rinsed beans and chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes to allow vegetables to cook and the flavors to blend. Garnish with a squeeze of lime, dollop of sour cream, chopped tomatoes, diced avocado, sprinkle of grated cheese, and chopped cilantro.